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Chiaramonte persists with ‘highly offensive’ racial analogy, cites reasons for BoE ‘body language’

Jack
Norwalk Board of Education member Jack Chiaramonte said he has been called “wop, dago, everything else,” all his life, so he, too, knows about discrimination.

NORWALK, Conn. – There has still been no evidence provided to support a claim of racial discrimination on the Norwalk Board of Education, a city lawyer said Wednesday. Meanwhile, BoE Republican Jack Chiaramonte is doubling down on his comments about BoE member Shirley Mosby, calling her “the girl who cried black.”

Mosby recently filed a complaint with the NAACP alleging that “African-American and Hispanic female board members are subject to continual intimidation, harassment, disrespect, exclusion, discrimination, lack of transparency and not being informed, and subject to disparate treatment,” Norwalk Branch NAACP Second Vice President Brenda Penn-Williams said at the July 1 BoE meeting. Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr has since had a series of emails with NAACP President Darnell Crosland, requesting evidence to support that charge. Spahr said Wednesday that he has gotten “nothing.”

“I sent them a note confirming that despite our request for back up information, that they had sent nothing,” Spahr wrote in an email. “I indicated that we remained open to meet with them should the need arise on the condition that we be presented with the specifics of any claims prior to meeting so that we could properly review and prepare. At this point there is no meeting scheduled.”

Crosland did not reply to a Wednesday afternoon email asking for the status of the complaint.

Spahr said, “It is hoped that the Board can move forward and act together and productively to do the job that the members were elected to do.”

There have been no BoE meetings since July 1 – the one scheduled for Thursday night has been cancelled and the next one is Aug. 5 – but blunt comments made by Chiaramonte in a published report might be regarded as working against that last sentiment expressed by Spahr.

Chiaramonte called Mosby “the girl who cried black” in a story that Mosby referred to at Monday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting as “not a very flattering article.”

“That goes to the insensitivity that we have been talking about for a year, two years,” Mosby said. “The simple fact that other board members, prior to me getting on the board, have been experiencing this type of treatment, and then I have experienced it myself, and the three of us speaking out on it,” she said, before stopping to protest that a camera had been pointed her way.

Councilwoman Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B) called Chiaramonte’s comments “highly offensive,” and said, “Members of the community did find it offensive.”

Carolyn Fuller said Chiaramonte’s quote was, in effect, accusing Mosby of playing the race card.

Chiaramonte said Wednesday that Mosby had promised to make that claim long before the incident.

“Funny how she’s making charges but she has no proof. She’s the one making the accusations without any proof, so I called it like I saw it. She has told me to my face if she had to pull the race card she would,” Chiaramonte said. “When she got on the board, like many other people, they’re screaming how they want more black teachers. Let me ask you, as a parent and a taxpayer in the city, don’t you want the best qualified teachers? Does it have to be black? That to me shows some kind of racism to me.”

Mosby did not return a Wednesday phone call or an evening email.

The “girl who cried black” is a reference to a children’s fable about a boy who cried “wolf.”

“The boy who cried wolf, spreading a bunch of lies out to the community, got them all agitated and they were shown that they were false,” Chiaramonte said. “Shirley Mosby is saying a bunch of accusations out to the community and agitating the public, and so far they have been shown to be false. Sounds one in the same to me.”

“When they come to the next meeting screaming ‘racist, racist,’ I am going to tell them where they can go put it,” Chiaramonte said. “I am not going to take this. You know what? They think they can scream the same thing over and over, that people are going to cower. I am not going to cower. If they want to lie they are going to be held accountable for it. I wish they would stop the petty nonsense and concentrate on the work at hand. They voted for the superintendent’s budget, they voted for the vision that he had, and every time when he tries to implement them they fight it. That’s what they do.”

Yolanda Skinner, chairwoman of the NAACP’s Health Committee, said at the July 1 BoE meeting that she had witnessed “discourteous body language” at the previous board meeting. “The body language, the pitch and the tones that were used toward Miss Mosby, Miss (Migdalia) Rivas and Miss (Rosa) Murray was really disheartening.  It made me want to jump down from up there,” Skinner said.

Asked about that, Chiaramonte said, “If you voted for the superintendent’s budget and you voted for his vision or what he wants to do and then you turn around and fight him on everything he does after that, I think it’s wrong. I also think it’s wrong to take we have to do on the board and bring it out to the community for every little thing, and the reason I say that is because you’re elected, you’re elected to make a decision, that’s what you’re there for.”

No need to consult 100 people, he said. “That’s what they are going to judge you on when they vote for you or they don’t vote for you,” he said.

“The other thing I would say, you also have a bi-partisan majority on that board working with the superintendent,” Chiaramonte said. “You also have a partisan minority that keeps fighting it. Now, you want to fight it, you want to vote no, vote no. Do what you want to do. … I don’t care, if you want to vote no.

“When I was chairman, I told everybody on the board that I don’t have a problem with how votes go. I said your job as a board member is to convince four other people on that board to your way of thinking. If you can do that you will pass what you want to pass. If you can’t do that, you don’t hold a grudge, grit your teeth and make faces, roll your eyes, do all that stuff they do and cow like a baby about it.”

Dede Farnsworth said something similar at Monday’s DTC meeting, addressing Penn-Williams, Fuller and Mosby.

“We don’t want to get into a dogfight at every meeting,” said Farnsworth, wife of DTC Chairman Ed Camacho. “I request that you interact in a way without sighing or rolling your eyes. … Stop acting like junior high school women by rolling your eyes.”

Chiaramonte said the three “partisan minority” board members constantly come out with “baseless, meritless accusations.” He also said he is tired of the tirades from Mosby’s father, John Mosby, at every board meeting.

“The stuff they are saying is such nonsense. It really gets to your spirit,” Chiaramonte said.

The elder Mosby’s complaints about lack of minority hiring are offensive, he said.

“With all the minorities we have hired in the last few years, you look at yourself and say why are we even having this conversation?” Chiaramonte said. “The proof is the proof. You know what is really funny, is they are saying these allegations against us, they are basically calling us racists, and then we get to the actual proof of the pudding here it shows that we have hired lots of minorities. Black and Latino. To me it’s like Bizarro-land. I’m in Bizzaro-universe over here, that’s what’s going on. I don’t get it when they make these accusations.”

Chiaramonte is not backing down.

“I still meant what I said and I said it for a good reason,” Chiaramonte said. “I don’t think it was over the top. I think when you compare what the boy who cried wolf did to what Shirley Mosby and the (others) have been doing, I think it’s exactly the same. A rose is a rose by any other name. No matter how you sneak up on the mirror your reflection always looks you in the face. I don’t care how you sneak up on that mirror, you can creep the corner, you can crawl upon it, you’re going to see it for what it is. You know what? What I said, ‘the shoe fits’ and I guess the truth hurts.”

Correction, 2:10 p.m.: Chiaramonte said “bi-partisan majority,” not “partisan majority.”

Comments

37 responses to “Chiaramonte persists with ‘highly offensive’ racial analogy, cites reasons for BoE ‘body language’”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    Yes, Mr. Chiaramonte, because you experienced discrimination in Queens NY, does not mean that others are your playground for “tough love”.
    *
    Once again, in your zeal, you leave dead bodies in your wake, defending a quip, is not acceptable, you made a comment, I am sure you meant it, because you repeat it.
    *
    Why should the Mosby’s have to endure your five minute “add hot water and stir” observation on their behavior?
    *
    Why are you insistent on disregarding the consequences of your words?
    *
    In person, you are a helluva nice man, I frequented your shop on South Main street,and found you personable, funny, and basically a decent human being
    *
    What happened to that demeanor when you got on the board of ed? is it such a toxic arena, that it brings out the very worst in people?
    *
    Is that due to the leadership? is it really just those individuals who cite discrimination? or is it something more?
    *
    I think it’s something more, being a member of the BOE in Norwalk, is an awesome responsibility, and with this responsibility goes temperance of countenance.
    *
    Maybe people on both sides have “let it go to their heads”, maybe, maybe someone should show a little restraint.
    *
    How about you Mr. Chiaramonte? you’re a leader, how about you show a little restraint?

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  2. One and Done

    No one is entitled to respect. If the race baiters want respect, they should earn it by working hard on the BOE instead of constantly going on their uninformed, baseless, fact-less rants. Add some value and you will be valued. Jack might be rough around the edges, but indeed the truth cuts deep.

  3. Bill

    How about Mosby show a little restraint and respect?

  4. EveT

    Many of Chiaramonte’s statements make entertaining reading, but there’s one that makes good common sense: “stop the petty nonsense and concentrate on the work at hand.”

  5. piberman

    Given the superb work of our truly dedicated BOE members in rejuvenating the BOE into an admired public body with a superb Superintendent its truly discouraging to read of the continuing unfounded complaints of 3 disaffected BOE members who apparently are not main contributors. Our minority citizens deserve much more competent representation than these 3 BOE members. That’s real issue here. Either serve the Norwalk community or resign.
    Your service on the BOE casts a negative shadow on our City and the silence of the DTC about these allegations is equally discouraging to Democrats and all who admire our City.

  6. Casey Smith

    @EveT –
    .
    I totally agree with you. While Mr. Chiaramonte’s comments are colorful and entertaining, he’s unfortunately giving them more fuel for their fire. Toxic people LOVE to create havoc and discord because it gives them control.
    .
    At the DTC meeting, Dede Farnsworth nailed it…”We don’t want to get into a dogfight at every meeting,” said Farnsworth, wife of DTC Chairman Ed Camacho. “I request that you interact in a way without sighing or rolling your eyes. … Stop acting like junior high school women by rolling your eyes.”
    .
    I’d be very surprised to find out that Mr. Lyons or any other member of the BOE was in attendance at that meeting. And still there were problems, which leads me to believe that it’s not necessarily the BOE that is the source of the problem.
    .
    The most important aspect of dealing with toxic people is simply to move on.

  7. MarjorieM

    Jack, if you would calm down and explain the situation and declare what you want in a non-volatile way, you might be listened to. Right now there are torpedoes being sent in both directions, which can be detrimental to either party and to the educational system of Norwalk.

  8. Jack Chiaramonte

    I generally don’t get caught up responding to blogs, but there are certain points that need to be addressed. I appreciate the above three comments from Norwalk Lifer, EveT and Casey Smith, and I will respond to to them as well.
    Let’s start with this quote from Shirley Mosby responding to my “wolf”analogy:
    “This goes to the insensitivity that we have been talking about for a year, two years…”
    Ask yourself why she doesn’t find it “insensitive” to lie to the public with false accusations, and agitate the public with sheer nonsense? Now the three posters who commented above would prefer that we take the high road and just ignor such statements. My answer to you is we have. We have for quite a while. Do you know what it has gotten us? More of the same with more frequency. “Tell a lie enough times and people will believe you”. Those of us who have children, do we let our children go about lying and not reprimand them? Of course not. Sitting silent and letting them get away with their untruthful rants is not doing anyone any good. Yes EveT, when I said stop the petty nonsence and concentrate at the work at hand, I mean just that. We have a national acclaimed superintendent with a marvelous vision to lead our school district to being one of the best in the state, if not the country. These 3 board members have fought this superintendent since day one. They ultimately voted for his budget, which then becomes our budget, they voted for his agenda and plan, then they continuously fight him when he tries to implement that very plan! As I said in the article above, you can vote however you want, yes, no, or abstain. That’s each member right to vote how he/she sees fit. Each board member will be judged on their voting record. It doesn’t mean you roll your eyes, make faces, go out to the public and lie to the community because you don’t get the votes to go the way you like. You certainly don’t play the race card either. There comes a time when you listen to all this garbage meeting after meeting that you come to the conclusion enough is enough. We, a BI-PARTISAN Majority on this BOE, know we have valuable work to do to move this district forward. We don’t need false accusations and racist remarks by others to sully our work. Sitting silent and letting them screech their racist rants has no place in our meetings, which is why I am finally speaking out on this matter. You wouldn’t let your children get away with lying, and you shouldn’t let your elected officials get away with it either.

  9. piberman

    Isn’t interesting that no other Democratic City official – Council Council, Democratic Town Committee nor Mayor – has supported the repeated discrimination allegations of the 3 disaffected Democrat BOE members. Nor have City Democatic leaders criticized the 3 BOE member. Making unsupported allegations seems OK with City Democratic leadership. Is that what Norwalk’s Democratic Party stands for ? Only the NAACP comes to their defence lacking evidence. Clearly without any City officials supporting the disaffected 3 BOE members one would imagine that they would sensibly refrain from further criticisms of our much admired BOE. And put this episode in “public service” behind them. Not so. Why they persist raises interesting questions. Will City Democratic leaders offer assistance if they complain long enough. Will “facts” suddenly emerge ?

    Kudos to BOE member Chiaramonte. Its time to end the “discriination claims” as having no foundation in fact. Since no City Democratic leader is defending the BOE its helpful to have a BOE member do just that.

  10. LWitherspoon

    So we have Yolanda Skinner alleging that some BoE members used discourteous body language. Do the offending BoE members have names? I believe BoE meetings are videotaped so it should be simple to provide video of the offending body language.
    .
    Meanwhile Dede Farnsworth asked Ms. Mosby at a DTC meeting to refrain from sighing and rolling her eyes.
    .
    Could it be that the person who accuses others of “offensive body language” is actually the number one offender? Would video of BoE meetings show Ms. Mosby rolling her eyes and sighing?
    .
    @Jack Chiaramonte
    .
    While agree with your larger points, I still believe “the girl who cried black” was not a helpful thing to say. I agree with Casey Smith that such comments become fuel to the fire. I don’t believe you intended to make a comment that was racially offensive, but what some people heard was you making a flip comment about a person’s race. When dealing with individuals who feel slighted and are extremely sensitive to all matters racial, it’s best to find more neutral language.

  11. MarjorieM

    Jack, you are continuing to react in the same way. It appears that you can’t stop yourself, and you are inflaming the situation. Because of your attitude and temper, it does make me wonder if Ms. Mosby’s accusations are well founded.

  12. Casey Smith

    @ Mr. Chiaramonte –
    .
    “Now the three posters who commented above would prefer that we take the high road and just ignor such statements. My answer to you is we have. We have for quite a while. Do you know what it has gotten us? More of the same with more frequency. ”
    .
    I can’t disagree with you at all about the increased frequency of the bogus accusations. They are increasing. But I would like to point out that three critical facts have come forward. First, the video tape showed Mr. Mosby’s accusations were baseless. Secondly, Atty. Crossland, who by the way will be running for Probate Judge come November, has NOT responded to the District with evidence showing the accusations to be substantiated. And finally, the three individuals were at the DTC (and I’m assuming you were not in attendance) and they continued their antics there.
    .
    At this point in time, Mr. Chiaramonte, public opinion is on the Board’s side. Mr. Lyons has posted his rebuttals in defense of the Board. The comments on NON have basically aligned themselves with the Board. I have no idea what these three individuals hope to accomplish by their actions, but what they are proving is that they can cause strife wherever they go. Let them. That’s what toxic people do. The trick is not to get pulled into whatever drama is being created. Don’t let them push your buttons, Mr. Chiaramonte, cause that’s what they are trying to do.

  13. Dawn

    Now the focus has moved. Sorry but memories are too short in this digital age.
    .
    Let us not forget that we are waiting for the accusers to back up the accusation.
    .
    the accusation was made public and i think the proof needs to be made public as well.
    .
    STILL WAITING!!!………..

  14. Bill

    The only racist I’ve ever seen on the BOE is Ms. Mosby. She is a nice lady, but she is racist. I wish she would change her heart and start loving white people the same way we love her.

  15. Regarding the allegations of racism, I would suggest that this issue might have been addressed better had the complaint been kept private rather than publicly released by the NAACP. As Councilman Watts put it regarding allegations directed at Zoning Commissioner Nate Sumpter, “If you have the smoking documents, if you have some proof, you should have shared that with your caucus and they should have shared it with our caucus,” Watts said. “But absent of that, you do not come out into an open council and accuse someone or even suggest that someone is being unethical, because that’s wrong.” – NON, 7/23/14.

  16. sara smith

    Nowhere in this blog and trail of remarks are the best intentions of our students mentioned. This kind of banter and assault is not tolerated in our schools. Why then do we let it fly from our board members?

    . . . and so the student teaches the adults . . . a repulsed parent of Norwalk public school students

  17. Sara, I agree. I myself much prefer dealing with the substantive matters regarding education; see https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/06/opinion-a-status-report-from-the-board-of-education.

  18. Oldtimer

    It is, of course, possible that there is some basis for Ms Mosby to feel that she is a victim of racial discrimination. No matter if the people she feels have victimized her intended to treat her differently, a little discussion with her could go a long way toward resolving the issue. Calling her a liar and her complaints bogus is not helpful and only serves to strengthen her belief. Finding a way to keep Chiaramonte from tossing fuel on the fire might also be helpful. Assuming, because nobody has submitted proof to the corporation counsel’s office, that there is no reason for her complaint is, at best, a little shortsighted. If she and Mikee Lyons could have a private conversation, we might be surprised at the results. Is there any doubt she will name Chiaramonte as a leading player in her complaint ?

  19. Tim D

    @Sara Smith. Thumbs up – the best point yet!

    .
    But imagine, if you will, having to try and conduct the day to day business of the BoE and what goes into preparing for each meeting, each month and each year and the amount of time and energy put into that important task? But THEN, here in Norwalk you need to do ALL of your extra homework because each meeting is a showdown with these three childish malcontents.

    I admire Mr Lyons for showing a great deal of constraint – I know I couldn’t. Mr Chiaramonte should have simply said Don’t sing it, bring it – shows us the documented racism. We are waiting.

  20. Lifelong Teacher

    Well said, sara smith. Let the board do its business. Stop the childish nonsense.

  21. Oldtimer, these things are always two way streets. How about Ms. Mosby shows a good faith effort and (i) apologizes for threatening to ‘pull every white hair out of [Mike Lyons’] head’ at our very first Board meeting and (ii) withdraws an NAACP complaint that shouldn’t have ever been filed (but, at the VERY least, should have been kept private (as Councilman Watts would argue))?

    I would really much rather work at budgets, curricula, technology improvements, evaluation systems, P-Tech Academy and all the other things highlighted in my status update referenced above than have to constantly deal with these unproductive wastes of time. But since I am the person who is under attack, I think its legitimate of me to expect that the first move come from the other side.

  22. EveT

    The lesson of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” story was that when a wolf actually came, nobody believed the boy because of the false alarms he had raised previously.

    Whether the BOE complaint is a false alarm remains to be seen, but people should consider the possibility that they’d be damaging credibility if they made complaints without basis. If real grounds for complaint arose in the future, they might have reduced credibility.

  23. LWitherspoon

    Mike Lyons for Mayor!

  24. David

    Ah yes! Remember the good old days? Remember? When Jack Chiaramonte was the Chairperson for the Board of Education….remember how good those times were? Anyone? No??? Yeah, me neither.

  25. Ziggy Stardust

    @David

    Ah yes David, I remember well what it was like before Chiaramonte joined the BOE. Sal Corda, Stu Opdahl and Faye in HR, among many other characters who running our district to the ground. Since Chiaramonte has been active on this board, he has been a part of a huge change for the better for this District. He has always worked well with a bipartisan coalition on the board to this very day. You may not like his brassyness, but he has always told it like it is to the public, never got caught up in that PC sharade as so many phony politicians do. When he was chairman, he held the teachers union to give like every other union did when financial times we’re bad, only to be vilified by a union leader that refused to give anything back and lied to the community, while all other unions did worked with city to do the right thing. Even now, Chiaramonte refused to sit silent while false accusations of racism were levied against the board. He didn’t sit silently back and let these instigators have free reign, he wasn’t worried about being “politically correct” while others racially slurred the Board. He had the backbone to tell it like it is and hold those accountable, as he has always done. As piberman said, “Kudos to Chiaramonte”, and I agree.

  26. Don’t Panic

    Yes, Mr. Chiaramonte is Norwalk’s very own Chris Christie.

  27. Gypsy

    With support of antics like this, Midaglia Rivas shows she will never garner the same amount of respect that her late sister Judy Rivas was held in by most Norwalkers.

    How sad.

  28. piberman

    Reading through these comments underscores the tragedy of failed public service by several elected members to the BOE. For the first time in decades Norwalk has a well functioning BOE under unusually competent leadership rarely found in our City and truly capable Superintendent. Yet City officials, especially DTC leaders refuse to criticize the disruptive unsupported discrimination charges by the 3 BOE members. Nor is any criticism levied by community leaders representing minority citizens. No incident in recent memory underscores the sheer scope of Norwalk’s failed politics and community leadership. Who would buy a house in a City where unfounded charges of discrimination by 3 BOE members are simply ignored by political and community leaders ? NEON now this advertises a failed City.

  29. MarjorieM

    Jack has an attitude and doesn’t appear to have full use of the executive function of his brain, Mike may be the greatest leader of the Board, but the nationally recognized superintendent who is so great for Norwalk? He has been here one year and it is patently obvious that he has accomplished nothing that he can claim as his own. (Except for the appointment lot of expensive central office administrators) Maybe all this blowhard behavior is to distract us all from the facts?

  30. Mike Lyons

    Marj, Dr. Rivera has accomplished a tremendous number of things for our schools since arriving, as has been detailed on NON many times. Your hostility to him is bordering on irrationality.

  31. Ziggy Stardust

    @MarjorieM

    After reading your statement, I believe it is you who has lost the functioning capabilities of what is left left of your brain. Chiaramonte’s attitude is just fine and much needed on a board that contains 3 radical members who look to instigate trouble by falsely accusing the rest of racial behavior. I suppose you would expect the board to just sit there and listen to these racists rant week after week and not react to the false accusations? Now that is brainless thinking and you own it. Lyons is the best chairman this board has ever had. Dr, Rivera has already set up and is re-aligning this district to be more efficient, thus making it able to deal with the obstacles it needs to address to make this a premier school district. […]

    This comment was edited to comply with our policy against name-calling.

  32. MarjorieM

    The public needs to keep their eyes and ears open. That’s what my aim is with this blog, to let people read both sides of the story. Time will tell who is right.

  33. Ziggy Stardust

    @MarjorieM

    Are you kidding me? So your aim is “let people read both sides of the story”? And your telling us “the public needs to keep their eyes and ears open”? Is that why you attack Chiaramonte for calling out those who use the race card and lie??? Is that why you think this superintendent hasn’t done anything??? You obviously do not know both sides of the story and apparently your eyes and ears are glued shut! Wish you and some others here would stop talking out their backsides.

  34. EveT

    I consider the last sentence of @Ziggy Stardust a highly offensive metaphor.

  35. MarjorieM

    Based upon the vociferous response, I must have hit a nerve. Guess there must be some truth in what I am writing.

  36. Ziggy Stardust

    @EveT
    And I find it offensive when people like MarjorieM attack the superintendent for having done nothing when she has no clue of everything he has done as Mike Lyons pointed out. Making ignorant claims when you don’t have a clue of the facts is offensive

    @MarjorieM
    Pleeeease! Don’t flatter yourself. Only you would find truth in something that has proved how ignorant your post was,

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